Must poverty and violence go hand in hand?
The clinic where I worked in LaPlaine is run by an order of Catholic Sisters. Five Sisters live in a simple convent above the clinic. The Sisters are from Cuba, Columbia, Spain, and central America and all are fluent in Haitian Creole.
These Sisters are joyful, hard-working, and accompany the poor by living with them. Hundreds of patients show up each day before the sun comes up to be examined and treated by the four Haitian physicians who work in the clinic. And the Sisters are the only ones in all of Haiti who are giving care to this lady with cancer.
I decided to work with these Sisters in February because the Sisters of the same order in Soleil (about two miles away) were being robbed so frequently during the previous eight months that they were forced to close their baby malnutrition program in Soleil. And the pediatric clinic in Soleil was almost devoid of patients several weeks ago because of the gang wars and shootings in the streets of Soleil. Mothers were simply too afraid to bring their children to the clinic. (On March 9 three more people were allegedly gunned down in Soleil and the police station in Soleil was also shot at from gunmen in a car.)
The day before I started working with the Sisters in LaPlaine in February, one of the Sisters from Colombia told me that the next day they were burying a 35-year-old Haitian doctor who worked for them. Her eyes welled up with tears as she explained to me how he was shot six times by men on four motorcycles who surrounded his car while he was on his way to work last week. She offered me his office explaining that the three other Haitian doctors did not want to work in his office.
And one week ago today in the middle of the night these same Sisters were awakened by three armed intruders who shoved and beat the Sisters with the little Columbian sister taking most of the beating. She was struck multiple times in the head and body. The bandits stole a little money from what was collected the day before at the clinic downstairs. The Sisters do not store large quantities of cash on site. They live very simply.
And one of the elderly Sisters (picture above) who serves the malnourished people in the clinic neighborhood had a broken arm from a fall when I was there. But that did not stop the bandits from striking her also.
All of the Sisters will be okay, but they are very afraid. The Columbian Sister e-mailed me yesterday and said she is slowly recovering and that “God allowed me to be struck but it is a grace and He will cure me.”
So this is Haiti today. Many other Catholic nuns have been attacked and robbed in Port-au-Prince.
Three of our Haitian Hearts employees in Port-au-Prince are visibly thinner than usual because they don’t have enough to eat. They call and text and e-mail me everyday explaining their plight and the danger and disarray of the streets. Poverty and violence go hand-in-hand.
What needs to happen in Haiti to protect the Sisters? There has to be functioning government with a justice system that works for everyone. There needs to be an infrastructure which supplies jobs, food, water, sanitation, electricity, housing, education, health care, and passable roads for Haiti’s 10 million people. Until this happens, these atrocities will continue against the Sisters who are the best examples of social justice in Haiti.
Dr. John Carroll spends two to four months a year in Haiti, working with Haitian Hearts in the country’s clinics and hospitals. Haitian Hearts brings children and young adults in desperate need of heart surgery from Haiti, to the United States for life-saving medical treatment. This article was published on Dr. Carroll’s blog, "Dispatches from Haiti" and is reprinted here with permission.